Introducing Connie Blackwell, pediatric NP and co-founder of North Metro Clinic
Neighborhood HealthSource has worked to improve the health of our communities and ease access to affordable healthcare for nearly 50 years. Connie Blackwell, a pediatric nurse practitioner and co-founder of North Metro Pediatrics (NMP), has been championing a similar mission in Anoka County since 2005. This year, NMP joined the Neighborhood HealthSource family as our fourth clinic site.
Meeting the needs of Anoka County families
North Metro Pediatrics was one of few nurse-practitioner-run pediatric medical practices in the Twin Cities market. Before founding the clinic, Connie worked in private practice, where she saw many families denied medical care if they were uninsured or under-insured. “People were turned away if they couldn’t pay for services,” Connie says. “It’s a crime that access can be an issue for families.”
“People were turned away if they couldn’t pay for services. It’s a crime that access can be an issue for families.”Connie Blackwell
At the time, there was a child and teen check-up program in Anoka Public Schools funded by a United Way grant. The program helped low-income families get care for their kids. “That grant funding ended, and families who couldn’t afford care didn’t have access anymore,” Connie explains. Combined with her experience in private practice, this loss of resources convinced her of the lack of affordable, accessible healthcare for kids and their families in the North Metro.
Time proved to be an issue in the world of private practice too—for Connie there was never enough of it. “I would only have 20 minutes with a new mom. She would have tons of questions, and it just wasn’t enough,” she explains. She saw the need for families to have more time with their providers, to build relationships and create trust.
In 2005, it became clear to Connie that working private practice was keeping her from reaching the families most in need in her community. That year, Connie co-founded North Metro Pediatrics. Originally located in the Anoka-Washington Head Start building, the clinic treated kids whose families had trouble affording care. “It was pretty much a one-room show with a little office space,” Connie recalls.
Onward and upward for NMP
The operation eventually outgrew the shared space and in 2010, NMP applied for and received a grant to build their very own clinic space. “We are just a mile away from the original location,” Connie says. The clinic is now located near Highway 10 and Foley Boulevard. In the 14 years since NMP was founded, patients who first came as kids have begun bringing their own children to the clinic. This, Connie says, is the most rewarding part of her work. “The relationships we establish are so important,” she says. “To see families grow, and to see them come back again and again for years. Everyone is so grateful.”
North Metro Pediatrics took an exciting step this past August when it joined Neighborhood HealthSource as our fourth clinic site. NMP rebranded as North Metro Clinic, and the clinic expanded services to patients of all ages in December 2019. For Connie, this represents an opportunity to reach many more patients in Anoka County. She hopes to treat both family members of the kids the clinic already serves and new members of the community.
“Before this, Anoka County had no access for under-served adults,” Connie says. “Now we can see the whole family! It’s about building on and expanding the resources we offer at North Metro Clinic. I’m so thrilled to be working on this venture together [with Neighborhood HealthSource].”